The Situationist

Unclean Hands

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 14, 2008

hands-washingThe Economist has an interesting story on how washing one’s hands makes a person more likely to tolerate unethical behavior.   We excerpt the story below.

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A study just published in Psychological Science by Simone Schnall of the University of Plymouth and her colleagues shows that washing with soap and water makes people view unethical activities as more acceptable and reasonable than they would if they had not washed themselves.

Dr Schnall’s study was inspired by some previous work of her own. She had found that when feelings of disgust are instilled in them beforehand, people make decisions which are more ethical than would otherwise be expected. She speculates that the reason for this is that feeling morally unclean (ie, disgusted) leads to feelings of moral wrongness and thus triggers increased ethical behaviour by instilling a desire to right the wrong. However, as the cleanliness and purification rituals found in many religions suggest, physical cleanliness, too, is linked to moral behaviour, so she decided to investigate this as well.

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For the rest of the story, click here.  To read the Schnall study, click here.

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